We act as if
at a ‘comparatively more primitive’ level.
It did never stop. And live forms are diverse, with no lesser, no fitter and no better ones.
(Gruppe Messel, Animal Autonomy: branching out of the holistic.)
‘Compassion’ is something you speak of (and ask for on behalf of someone) from a position of privilege.
If we have an intersectional view on nonhuman animal oppression and see how oppressive mechanisms functionally interact, then we might understand that the discussion about nonhumans needs to be brought on the level of justice, liberation, autonomous dignity, etc.
In other words nonhuman animal issues need to be brought onto a political level – in legal and ethical terms – while ‘compassion’ tends to simply stand for an individual sentiment; in this case granted from a privileged human standpoint.
Renuardine, vegans of color / DE
Defining Nonhumans as ‘INSTINCTUAL’ is species-derogative and biologistic …
and even vegans innocently/unreflectedly apply this definition, because veganism only acts on the practical but not so much on the theoretical level: the definitions of nonhumans in culturally anthropocentric terms leave no space for a language that enables us to talk about Nonhumans in otherness-appreciative terms.
This is a quick draft – some questions that I’d like to put, after thinking about why we still encounter a lot of speciesism even within a vegan context. What do you think: Do you feel that veganism has the tools ready for eliminating speciesism in society’s thinking and action?
Is there more anti-speciesist praxis that veganism can contain?
Yes, veganism [ethic] could cover issues such as philosophical, religious, scientific speciesist theories and practices.
How much anti-speciesist praxis does veganism contain?
The omission of all animal products and derivatives. The avoidance of some cultural practices that involve speciesism.
Is veganism automatically anti-speciesist?
Not necessarily, veganism still does tolerate an insensibility toward some overt and a variety of subtle forms of speciesism, it does however exclude “mild speciesism”, such as is pomoted by several authors famed for their animal rights advocacy.
Or even …
How speciesist is veganism?
This question depends on whether ignoring branches of societal factors of speciesism automatically makes you a speciesist yourself – even if you avoid as many animal products as possible.
You can for instance agree with a speciesist perspective while assuming you’d be vegan for ethical reasons, as long as that speciesist perspective is not yet covered by the canon of common vegan ethics. An example would be the question of using animal body parts in art, or philosophical and religious theories that empower the human oppression and exploitation of nonhumans, as precursors to their physical exploitation and humiliation.
How speciesist can veganism be?
A good example of this dilemma is the veganic practice, which so far does exclude nonhuman animals from living in mixed communities within their veganic projects. We only know of one veganic project, namely that of the Animal Place sanctuary, which promotes a shared habitat for humans and former farm animals.
Another problem is political inactivity and an ethical disinterest in questioning consumerism, and in the destruction of habitat driven by our economic systems. Veganism can effectively only operate on an interrelated basis in the end of the day; speciesism and other forms of societal discrimination are sociological problems, veganism very much operates on the level of alternative consumption and living practices – all happens within the same political spaces of society and environment/s.
Alex from the new site http://www.moralcompassion.wordpress.com/ shared this informative and important info touching on the foundations of ethical veganism (in its pure sense) with us: Meat consumption from a moral point of view: Is eating lives ethical? An essay that examines the problems with eating meat.
THE ETHICS OF EATING LIVES
A slaughterhouse worker “processing” cattle for human meat consumption.
Human society has a long history of invented distinctions which have artificially been drawn between race, gender, class, sexual orientation and other perceived boundaries. Over the years, these perceptions and hierarchical structures have proven to be unjust, exploitative, and most of all, arbitrary. Granted, all of these segregations have been built within human species, yet they all show the same characteristics. Whether the system is called racism, separation of the classes, separation of the sexes or homophobia, they all state that the concerned target is less worthy because of its membership of another group than our own and that therefore its oppression is justified. Foreign races, women, lower classes, religious people, the LGBT people and many more have all been oppressed solely because of their otherness in comparison to the oppressors. At some point, all of them have been seen as non-feeling, mere objects and there were almost no restrictions as how to treat or make use of them. It is astonishing how long it took humanity to acknowledge that once oppressed groups are sentient – able to feel pain and pleasure – in the exact same way as we are. Though no man for example can ever fully prove that women have the ability to feel pain and happiness just like they do, we have fortunately come to a point in history where we no longer seek to prove this; it has become common sense. Similarly, although white people can never scientifically show evidence that black people have the same emotions like they do, human society dedicatedly believes that they do have the same emotional life along with other races. Even though the experience of pain and other feelings are subjective, we just know that black people, women or homosexuals are every bit as sentient as we are, regardless of skin colour, gender or the difference in sexuality.
Slavery has been enabled by racism, the belief system that ones own race is superior to others and that those others can therefore be mistreated and systematically abused. Slaveholders and their defenders argued that slavery had existed throughout history and that it was the natural state of mankind. Our ancestors in many different civilizations, even long before its heyday, had practiced slavery, a fact that the defenders often used to support their actions. The argument that slaves were better treated than elsewhere and that they were taken care of, even after they had reached the end of their working lives, was often heard in the southern parts of the U.S., for example. Slave breeding was a common act which aimed at improving the skills and quality of slaves. Forced pregnancies lead to slave children, which meant an increase in supply and could thus replace old, useless or worn out slaves inexpensively. Women who tended to give birth to more than one child per pregnancy and consequently produced more than others were favored. Through breeding, the slaveholders could avoid buying new slaves or fill labor shortages. Religious arguments were also widespread, so too the belief that Africans must be animals on two feet. This assumption is based on the biblical belief that all humans on our earth stem from the eight white persons who were on Noah’s ark, yet black people are here with us today. Consequently, the deduction seemed to be that “the black has no soul to be saved”. The author Millard Erickson comments: “Here we have the ultimate justification for […] discrimination and even slavery: blacks are not humans; consequently, they do not have the rights which humans have.”
The debate of women’s suffrage involved many supporters who went to great lengths to justify their beliefs. A particularly peculiar justification was that once women were given the right to vote and became involved in politics, they would stop marrying, stop having children and that as a result, the human race would die out. Another argument often used was that women and men simply have separate spheres; men were naturally seen as superior to women.
In Ancient Greece, education was withheld from women and they were married to adult men as soon as they were sexually mature, as though they were mere property. Women did not have the right to buy, own or sell land and could not leave the house without a supervising person.
Not too long ago and in many parts of the world even today, LGBT people are being oppressed, simply because their sexuality differs from heterosexual’s. Not only do they face psychological dejection when born into a society that condemns their naturally felt sexuality, but often physical assault too, which can in some cases lead to murder. At work they might have to bear the constant threat of victimization and discrimination. All too often, lesbian mothers are systematically denied the custody of their children and in schools, young people who open up about their sexual orientations, are bullied and socially excluded.
All the above-mentioned justifications surely seem ludicrous and silly to us nowadays, but they were taken very seriously by a wide section of society.
However, most countries have abolished slavery and many have made enormous progress concerning the women’s rights-issue and the LGBT’s-rights issue. Black people that were once subject to oppression are now accepted as citizens with the same rights as everybody else. Women that were once refused the right to vote, are now politically equal to men and are in some cases heads of state. With time, more and more states enable marriage-equality and thus create a society where LGBT people are accepted and can live free of prejudice.
All of these simplified examples show that we, as a species, seem to have finally understood that sentience, respect and ultimately compassion do not depend on external characteristics and that they do not need to be proven in order to exist. And what’s more important: we live by the realizations of the consequences of these awakenings, we have put them into practice.
Why is it then, that we still do not properly put those moral realizations into practice for all beings concerned? Why should the arguments, based on the facts of sentience and emotion be less valid when someone has fur instead of skin? Or if someone has feathers instead of hair? How is the line between nonhuman animals and human animals any less arbitrary than the one we drew between blacks and whites? “To mark this boundary [the boundary of concern for the interests of others] by some other characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary manner. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin color?”
“Virtually every atrocity in the history of human kind was enabled by a populace that turned away from a reality that seemed too painful to face, while virtually every revolution for peace and justice has been made possible by a group of people who chose to bear witness and demanded that other bear witness as well. The goal of all justice movements is to activate collective witnessing so that social practices reflect social values.”
Animals, especially the ones we abuse for consumption, are all sentient beings. There are many scientific proofs that shatter the perception that animals are mere meat-machines, soulless, numb objects, as they are often portrayed by meat-proponents. The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness states that “[…] neural circuits supporting behavioral / electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus)” and finally concludes that “the absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
The pretext ‘Human kind has always eaten meat’ very much follows the same logic that allegedly justified racism, as shown above. This idea, however, cannot count as a justification for the continuation of meat consumption, because – needless to say – actions that have always been done, are therefore not automatically rendered just. We have a long history of rape and murder, yet we oppose to those actions today. Again following the paths of racists and slaveholders, we might hear that some animals are better treated than others, that they have been given a little more space so that they actually could turn around or have had the possibility to go to a space to move about in. Regardless of the number of illusory, conscience-reassuring but false arguments we might come across, they can never change the facts. Meat always stems from an animal that once was alive and has then been killed for the consumers eating preferences only. When it comes to meat, the right of these sentient beings is being harmed as soon as we inflict pain on them solely for our purpose. When meat is no longer a necessity, it has become a choice. Anybody who eats meat is actively placing his appetite above the interest of the animals and above their very lives.
Just like slaveholders did, we breed animals, we shape their bodies to facilitate our exploitation of them. We impregnate them and steal their offspring, which we then eat. Psychologically, we have to degrade them to senseless machines in order to still function as humans next to this limitless horror. We reduce them to less than they are, the word “animal” itself is perceived as an insult. We do not have the decency to correctly name what we eat, we have to talk around it by using terms such as “pork” or “beef”. Slaughterhouse workers tend even more towards these euphemisms, as they refer to chickens as “broilers”, to pigs as “rashers” and to cows as “udders”.
Just as the membership of a race, gender, class or sexual orientation is of no importance when it comes to basic rights, neither does the membership of a particular species matter. The term speciesism has been established following the terms racism or sexism. Speciesism describes the discrimination based on species, just like racism describes the discrimination based on race. In other words, it is the belief that another species can be oppressed, abused and exploited solely because of their species. In virtually all cases, animal species are the victims of human speciesists, never vice versa. Generally, speciesists attach more value to humans than to animals not because of different qualities or capabilities but because of biased prejudices.
Speciesists often cynically ask whether – according to animal rights activist’s views – animals should be seen as equals to human beings. But animals do not need all the same rights that we humans do. The right to vote would be useless to them, because they do not have the desire to vote. The concept of preference utilitarianism, mostly coined by Peter Singer, suggests that animals deserve the same rights as humans where they have the same preferences or the same interests. Virtually all sentient beings have the strong desire to live, they avoid pain and do not want to be hurt. Furthermore, they feel emotions such as happiness, sadness, they grieve and are aware of their environment and their companion animals. This results, or rather should result, in them having the same rights for exactly these aspects: the right not to be hurt, the right to live freely and the right not to be held as property. In his own words, Singer argues that “the extension of the basic principle of equality from one group to another does not imply that we must treat both groups in exactly the same way, or grant exactly the same rights to both groups. Whether we should do so will depend on the nature of the members of the two groups. The basic principle of equality does not require equal or identicaltreatment, it requires equal consideration.”
If we take this system into consideration it is quickly shown that animal’s needs are not met at all. In fact, they are by far the most oppressed and mistreated group of all time on our planet. The Jewish writer Isaac Bashewis Singer is quite famous for his statement that for the animals “all people are Nazis” and thus for them, life “is an eternal Treblinka”  . All animals used for food are oppressed, mistreated and ultimately killed. We use their lives, we take their lives and we eat their lives only because we believe ourselves to be superior. But the superiority is an illusion when it comes to basic needs and emotions. They can and do suffer when harm is being inflicted on them.
The discussion of all these issues on a philosophical level can be summed up by the word ethics. Animal ethics focus on the relationship between human animals and nonhuman animals and how one interacts with the other. However, there are some major problems when it comes to animal ethics.
Too often, animal ethics only discuss aspects of a practice without actually questioning essential basic conditions. They push fundamental questions aside and accept the legitimacy of purpose as appropriate standard. Unethical practices are often correctly recognized as such, but ethics fail to bring out the practice’s abolition. Instead, they seek to improve or rather adjust the system in which they place animals in a way that requires minimal improvement in real welfare and gives the impression of meeting consumer’s demands for ethically produced meat. This is where meaningless labels like “cruelty-free” come from. Animal welfare is a real barrier to profit, from a business point of view. It is cheaper to produce animals in masses and let some die before slaughter age than to care for them adequately.
Violent ideologies depend upon promoting fiction as fact and discouraging or even prohibiting any critical thinking or action that threatens to dismantle this system. A good example might be the defamation trial in Amarillo, Texas in 1996. A group of beef producers sued Oprah Winfrey for over $10 million for slandering beef in one of her shows. The program discussed mad cow disease and featured warnings which showed that American cattle are likely to find ground-up members of their own species in their feed – those who had died from BSE. Clearly, the disease could thus be found in the meat Americans eat, which prompted Winfrey to declare “It has stopped me cold from eating another burger! I’m stopped!”
Her mistake was not that she had brought into light the more than dubious procedures of cattle business. Anyone can easily access those details if desired. What the group of beef producers did not like was her influence, the sheer number of people following her broadcasts. In other words, she simply reached too many people.
It is in this context that the so called “Ag-gag” laws have been put in place in the U.S., which forbid undercover filming or photography of agricultural activities. While supporters might claim they serve to protect agricultural industries from negative images, they are mainly used to keep activists from exposing the abusive and horrific truths that take place in today’s agricultural businesses. They make it almost impossible to prove mistreatment of animals used in agriculture, since they prohibit and outlaw the pieces of evidence themselves.
These precautions strongly suggest that there is something worth hiding. In fact, it is well hidden. It is striking, how easily one can spend a lifetime of meat consumption without once entering a place where it is processed.
“Because mass witnessing is the single greatest threat to carnism [the belief system that conditions us to eat some animals and not others], the entire system is organized around preventing this process. Indeed, the sole purpose of carnistic defenses is to block witnessing.”
Chances are that we have been fed meat products during our childhood, based on our parent’s habits. The decision has often been made and the meat-based diet habit has been accepted even before a child is on its way. One could ask: “Is it really ever a decision? Do carnists even consider raising their children without meat and then decide that they prefer feeding them corpses?” In fact, it is a pattern that continues until it is thoroughly questioned. Most of us are born into a system that we become accustomed to without knowing it. It is the reason why we see the consumption of the few animal-species our ancestors have consumed as normal, the way it has always been and consequently we never ask ourselves, why we do so. Obviously, this does not justify our actions in any way. In contrast, it should push us to act according to our own values and should lead us away from passiveness towards activeness. In that sense, rethinking the grounds for our actions is a necessary liberation. Arriving at this level of consciousness, we have the possibility to make new choices and to adjust or alter old habits that we falsely think of as beliefs.
“Most people who eat meat have no idea that they’re behaving in accordance with the tenets of a system that has defined many of their values, preferences, and behaviours. […] And by carving out the path of least resistance, norms obscure alternative paths and make it seem as if there is no other way to be; […] meat eating is considered a given, not a choice.”
I have recently been involved in a discussion about animal rights and the goal of activists to shift towards a world where animals are respected and not killed for any human purpose. We were talking about nations and the many different opinions that exist within them. My interlocutor explained to me that a state needs to be seen as a whole. Though many groups of people with many different views on life that they want to realize all coexist in the nation’s philosophy, the country is not capable to take them all into account. There may be a group whose goal it is to abolish all freeways and who demands a speed limit of 20 miles per hour in the whole country. There may be another group whose idea it is to ask the state for subsidies in order to build more parks and thus make cities greener. And there may be animal rights activists, who demand the closure of slaughterhouses, the ending of livestock breeding and finally the abolition of meat-consumption. Now, my friend asks me, what would happen to a state if it took all demands into consideration and helped with realizing every single one of them? If every idea of every group could ultimately sell itself and be put into action, the state would be torn apart quite quickly.
In that sense, my interlocutor wanted to demonstrate that certain ideas can neither be absorbed nor realized, even if they may be justified and beneficial. I logically agreed, because I recognized the problem that would occur if every inhabitant of a country could freely change the law according to his values. The big difference between animal rights activist’s demands and all the demands of other opinions however is, that there is a third party involved. This fact makes animal rights activist’s demands by far more important in comparison to other demands that one might have. Animal oppression is the cause for our demands and animal’s inability to ask for them themselves is the reason why it is us human beings who must fight for them. Animal right’s advocates do not have the opinion that animal abuse must end, but they are the ones that have acknowledged this truth.
This example might help understand why animal right’s demands cannot be shrugged off as if it were a phase that some people go through. Consequentially follows the promotion of a meat-free diet, as meat consumption represents the main contribution to the injustices that animals face.
Animal ethics are not only theoretical thought processes, but applied practices. The things we learn from them must have consequences in our daily lives. Meat consumption is not possible without taking lives and whether we have the right to do so does not solely depend on our perceptions. All sentient beings involved have rights, most importantly the basic right to live. Humans thus have rights too, but their rights end where those of the others begin.
Meat consumption strongly violates those rights as it always takes lives.
We have seen the numerous similarities of previous historical oppressions on the one hand and today’s topical oppression of animals on the other hand. It is of extreme importance to understand that animals are just as sentient as human beings and thus as every previously repressed group, an ethical fact which indisputably prohibits their slaughter for consumption. Meat products are no longer a necessity for the great majority of our planet’s population and thus have become a choice. We have this choice every time we act, especially as consumers and costumers. Our actions are powerful, given the fact that demand determines availability. Since we have that opportunity, it is our duty to choose the most ethical, rightful and compassionate way there is, which clearly is not to eat meat.
 Quartz, http://qz.com/178787/forget-
 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.
 Millard J. Erickson – Christian Theology, Baker Book House Company, Seventh Printing, 1990, page 543.
 Same as footnote no° three.
 Unfortunately, women are still systematically oppressed in many parts of the world. The example above, however, should illustrate a situation that has since changed dramatically.
 Peter Singer – Animal Liberation, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 1975, p. 9.
 Melanie Joy – Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows, Conari Press, 2010, p. 139.
 The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, written by Philip Low, published on 7.7.2012, available onhttp://fcmconference.org/img/
 Same as footnote no°eight.
 Again, see The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, written by Philip Low, published on 7.7.2012.
 Peter Singer – Animal Liberation, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 1975, p. 2.
 Melanie Joy – Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows, Conari Press, 2010, p. 139.
 Melanie Joy – Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows, Conari Press, 2010, p. 106.
A short narrative:
People I know said: “We stopped eating meat!”
Same people said: “We just love organic stuff, and recently when we went to our local organic farm we saw how lovely these farmers were and just how lovingly they kept their cows … and guess what, it was even the first time we ate some red meat again.”
Speciesism is a sign of not only a lack of basic fundamental necessary human empathy, it also indicates a lack of rational common sense. If you don’t understand what I mean, please read this text by Vasile Stanescu
Why “Loving” Animals is Not Enough: A Response to Kathy Rudy, Locavorism, and the Marketing of “Humane” Meat
Listen to an abbreviated version here:
Vasile Stanescu, “Why loving animals is not enough: a feminist critique”
We asked Filip, guitarist of the czech-swedish vegan anarchist band Avvika, about the ethical frames of vegan intersectionality and how to politically navigate veganism as an activist praxis and tool for liberation. In the lyrics of their song “Eternal Treblinka” Avvika speak about the correlation of totalitarian genocide and the taboo of speciesism as the totalitarian zoocide rooted in the epistemics of human hierarchical “objectivity”.
Filip: Personally, veganism is an important commitment in my life. I am happy every time I see new people turning vegan and honestly a bit sad when people turning back to this way of living. As well, people like to say that “it’s everyone’s choice”, but is it everyone’s choice to have a slave or beat their wife? I will still be on the side of the oppressed rather than fully respect the choice of somebody taking control over someone elses life. Yes, it might sound overexaggerated, but that’s a problem of those who read it, not mine. That’s the whole problem coming from speciesism – to see some beings as “just” animals and peoples choices as a principle with higher value.
Though, I find veganism as a path rather than a solution. It’s a choice how to live in the place and the time I/we live in. For me it’s a way, not a goal at all. It’s the least, the most passive act and basic ground of what each of us can do or choose. It’s just a start within the long run for animal liberation. I consider human beings as animals too, so for me it goes hand in hand with anarchist revolution, whatever that means. Veganism is also an act of solidarity.
Veganism got a bit trendy in some circles, which I can’t say I am a big fan of. I think, that to realize something shall come through (self) education or more sources of information rather than from fashion. Because what happens is that people quickly become vegans without really knowing why and then they conclude that it doesn’t make any sense to them, so they stop. But still I obviously welcome this trend much more than if it was trendy wearing fur, or go hunting, you know.
I think it is a mistake to think that nowadays you can boycott anything by just choosing a different product. Let me show some examples of what I mean: Most known vegan milk companies are owned by the biggest dairy corporations of the world. I heard there is some (anti)social media page called something like “compassion pizza” and there is list of places where you can get pizza with vegan cheese. These sellers never wanted to make a vegan restaurant or even don’t care, they just realized that they can sell a bit more if they include vegan cheese to the menu, so “compassion blog” actually made free advertisement to all the restaurants which mostly profit from selling meat and dairy products. That’s what I find dangerous about this trend.
Many people think that the choice of vegan cheese and soy cappuccino makes some change. All the food industry is a greedy monster (actually not just the food one, any industry is evil to all life). And especially so called green capitalism is a great example of how this system takes whatever comes from people who have some potential to question or critique inequalities and power structures. The system takes it, absorbs it, turns it into some product and sells it back to you. That’s why capitalism is more efficient than any dictatorships. It makes almost everything possible if you can afford it and people believe that that’s the freedom, just to get higher in this competition to be able to pay for it. It’s „democracy“ when you can have nearly everything if you have enough money, and it’s even easier if you are white and “at best” male. Then you have an „equal way“ to power.
That’s not freedom! We live in a „man made hell“!
We created a mantra which is now much bigger than us, than any each of us. The most of people’s values and relationships are capitalist ones; to see something or somebody else valuable according their social status or profit potential. The animal industry with vivisection is just a peak of insanity and ignorance of this society. And it is a big example. I don’t believe in liberty and harmony within capitalism. Capitalism with it’s own stupidity like economical competition, global “free” markets, the prison system, national states, police and more and more … . All of that is not gonna change by buying vegan coffee. That’s why I wouldn’t call veganism (without anticapitalist critique) as ethical.
I see the way to animal liberation through abolishing thedomestication of animals (including us people). Domestication by work, money, industry, church, alcohol, social (gender, sexual) norms, etc. All of it just creates an alienation. Yes, I know that many could oppose these opinions and say that people with these ideas can just move to the forest and shut up. But I am talking about abolishing domestication, not hiding from it. Last, but not least, in a region where I am from, or even country (probably like in the most of Europe) there is not much natural (not man-made) forest which is not considered as private or state property where one could stay and live wildly without further repressions anyway.
We have to strike back, not hide or escape!
No one is free, untill all are free.
GO VEGAN! GO FURTHER!
The beginning of Genesis says that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all the creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty, that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures.
What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped for himself over the cow and the horse, over the pig and the bird. Yes, the right to kill an animal is the only thing that all mankind can agree upon, even during the bloodiest of wars.
We have been at war with the other creatures of this earth ever since the first human hunter set forth with spear into the primeval forest. Human imperialism has everywhere enslaved, oppressed, murdered, and mutilated the animal peoples.
All around us lie the slave camps we have built for our fellow creatures, factory farms and laboratories, Dachaus and Buchenwalds for the conquered species.
We slaughter animals for our food, force them to perform silly trics for our entertainment and delectation, gun them down and stick hooks in them in the name of sport. We have torn up the wild places where once they made their homes.
Speciesism is more deeply entrenched within us even than sexism, and that is deep enough.
The most calamitous and fragile of all creatures is man, and yet the most arrogant. Is it possible to imagine anything so ridiculous as that this pitiful, miserable creature, who is not even master of himself, should call itself master and lord of the universe?
The domestication of women followed the initiations of animal keeping, and it was then that men began to control womens reproductive capacity, enforcing chastity and sexual repression.
A greedy monster devouring with a thousand mouths.
The spirit of Capitalism made flesh.
European explorers and colonists, who at home abused, slaughtered, and ate animals to a degree unmatched in human history up to that time, sailed forth to other parts of the world representatives of a religious culture that was as theologically arrogant and violence-justifiying as any the world had ever seen.
In the made-for-TV culture the only addmitted genocide is now part of history. “It’s comforting – it’s over”.
But aren’t the Auschwitzes of today animal farms, transports, laboratories and slaughter houses that are so carefully hidden from view? Where the most defenseless of the world’s victims are merely seen as material.
Nowhere is patriarchy’s iron fist as naked as in the opression of animals, which serves as the model and training ground for all other forms of opression.
Sight, sound and smell. Death on monumental scale.
No one wants to hear it, no one wants to see.
All unseen and unheeded, this horrible crime is
buried out of sight, wiped out of memory.
…thou shalt not be a perpetrator; thou shalt not be a victim; thou shalt not be a bystander. …”If learned throughout society, those three commandments could help people see that choices we make determine the extent to which we are perpetrators, victims, or bystanders in a society that has long been carrying out a holocaust against animals and other beings and ecosystems while declining to recognize it as a holocaust.”
“the point of understanding the Holocaust in Europe is to prevent and halt other ones, not to remain narrowly focused on that particular one, traumatic though it was.”
Credits: from S/T 12″, released26 February 2014
This is a response by Swedish animal rights activist Kristofer Aberg to an article by the Peace and Conflict Studies scholar Shawndeez Davari Jadali: ‘Vegan Killers: Israeli Vegan-Washing and the Manipulation of Morality.
The comment had initially been published on ‘Turkey Agenda’ as a response, but was removed again by the editors one day after publishing.
We asked Kristofer if we could share a copy of his comment on our blog, since this critique is important to be voiced, in support of our fellow Israeli activists and also because of the plurality that we need in the discussion of Animal Rights and vegan politics.
The radical notion that (vegan) Israelis are people
Shawndeez Davari Jadali wrote a couple of days ago about Israeli “vegan washing” in Turkey Agenda. Israel, Jews and Zionists have been subjected to a lot of lies and conspiracy theories during the years. Do we really need another one?
First of all: Is it really that hard to understand that you shouldn’t use collective punishments on Israelis just as you shouldn’t do it on Americans? How would Shawndeez Davari Jadali feel if she was to be blamed for the war inIraq, just because she lives in theUS? And that her attempt at peace and conflict studies is just a “peace washing” to make theUSimage better for the world?
The slogan “feminism is the radical notion that women are people” has shown to misogynous men what feminism is really about. It seems like people like Jadali need to be taught the radical notion that also Israelis are people! They are not propaganda machines for their government just as Jadali probably wasn’t a propaganda machine for the Bush administration. Israelis can have a life not connected to the conflict with the Palestinians. Jadali’s single minded attitude sounds like someone who has never met a gay person, and then stereotype that person totally. A Swedish comedian therefor said something like “I’m not just gay, I’m also a carpenter”, to point out that you are more than your sexuality. And you are also more than your citizenship. Israelis can be interested in veganism and queer politics just as Jadali or I can.
So where is Jadali’s evidence that it’s the Israeli state that is behind the vegan boom inIsrael? I have been active in the vegan and animal rights movement inSwedensince the 1990’ies, working with low budget grass roots campaigns. I would love to hear about the secrets on how to get your state to support these causes and make a vegan boom such as the one inIsrael! Also, inSweden, and probably in other places, most of the animal rights movement comes from the left/liberal/green side of the political spectra. InIsraelthere is a right wing government, so the conspiracy theory of them being behind the vegan boom seems even harder to believe.
What Javali is doing is to be categorised as the master suppression technique known as double bind – “damn you if you do, damn you if you don’t”. The same thing goes for the people using the “pink washing” theory to blame the Israelis for their liberal attitudes toward the LGBTQ community. IfIsraelwould have a lousy policy on veganism and LGBTQ issues, people like Jadali would have used that to blame them. Now when they are progressive, Jadali comes up with another way to be able to blame them. The same goes for Jadali’s criticism of the Israeli army providing non leather shoes for a minority (vegetarians and vegans). If they would refuse, Jadali would have just had the chance to blameIsraelfor discrimination against minorities. Some more peace and conflict studying of Norwegian social psychologist Berit As is recommended for her.
Also, why criticizeIsraelfor having a population that are progressive on vegan or LGBTQ issues in the first place? Why not take a moment and make the Palestinian side better? In many Arab countries, there is no such thing as a law against discrimination against non straight people, instead there are laws and even death penalty against homosexuality.
Jadali also blamed the Israeli animal rights activists for caring about animals. So why does she target progressive vegans around the world in the first place with her new “vegan washing” conspiracy theory? Vegans are blamed for this inSwedenas well – “how can you care about animals when the children inAfricaare starving” is a common argument from meat eaters. So in what way does eating meat help starving children? Quite the opposite, meat eating is really bad for the environment and for a global solidarity. And why are compassionate activists to be blamed for what they do with their spare time? Why not blame people who use their spare time to just watch soccer, driving cars or partying? Even though Jadali seems to want to label herself as progressive, what she is doing is being really normative, only seeing veganism as a political choice. Some more peace and conflict studying of another social psychologist is recommended for Jadali, this time Melanie Joy and her theories on carnism.
Jadali writes about solidarity with the oppressed and boycotting the occupation. Doesn’t she know that most Palestinians support Hamas, a gay and jew hating islamist terrorist group? They don’t just call the post 1967 settlements in theWest Bankoccupation, they call the whole ofIsraelan occupation.Israelwas founded as a safe haven for the Jewish people after persecution inEuropeandRussia, especially during the second world war. So why not take a moment to study the antisemitism of the world, and especially antisemitism from the Arabs and Palestinians? There is for surely a social psychologist for that as well, otherwise just check out Memri or Palestinian Media Watch.
Myself, I visitedIsraelfor the first time in September this year. The vegan food in Tel Aviv andJerusalemwas wonderful. Unfortunately I missed the vegan festival in October. But I wrote about it in a Swedish vegan magazine. And by doing so, apparently I became part of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy! As an ex student in journalism, I don’t understand how making the news valuation that the world’s largest vegan festival would be a correct event to cover, is an evalutation to blame. Rather, I think it would have been a huge mistake not to cover it. Many people want to hear about vegan news, especially from countries they didn’t think was big in these issues. Even a vegan movement in dictatorships likeSaudi Arabiawould be interesting to hear about. But for some strange reason,Israelapparently should be demonized and treated in a totally different way? Jadali, can we write about theUSvegan and animal rights movement? “Your” war inIraqcaused much more death and destruction during a couple of years than the conflict inIsraelandPalestinehas done for 100 years. And don’t get me started about the war inVietnam…
Jews or Israelis and especially not Israeli vegans should be demonized in the way that Jadali is doing. The progressive people all over the world should get our support. The largest problem as I see it in the conflict are the extreme right wing groups on both sides – not that less animals gets slaughtered or that the sale of tofu is sky rocketing in Israeli supermarkets. Jadali seems to have forgotten what her earlier studies was all about – hopefully creating peace. So to Jadali and all other readers of Turkey Agenda: Shalom and give peas a chance!
Kristofer Aberg, Swedish animal rights activist since 1995
(Links accessed 25. Dec. 2014).
8 Questions – that we asked Can Başkent about the interfaces of Atheism and Animal Rights
We have asked Can Başkent about the visible and the invisible forms of violence against nonhuman animals and the environment carried out in religious contexts, and if an ethical veganism should entail a rejection of a top-down hierarchical view on the evolution and existence.
Can Başkent was born in Istanbul, Turkey. He studied math and philosophy as an undergraduate, received his masters degree in logic in Amsterdamand his doctorate in computer science in New York. He continued his academic path at the Sorbonne and the École Normale Supérieure in philosophy and worked at the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA) as a researcher. As an activist Can has published a wide range of texts on anarchism, atheism, veganism and animal rights, he’s been engaged with the “Food not Bombs” campaign and launched a campaign to support the vegan prisoner of consciousness Osman Evcan. In 2011 Can founded the “Propaganda Press” (http://propagandayayinlari.net/), in 2013 he co-authored together with the vegan journalist Zülâl Kalkandelen (http://veganlogic.net/) the first enchiridion in Turkish about the political and economic aspects of ethical veganism: “Veganizm: Ahlakı, Siyaseti ve Mücadelesi” (Veganism: its Ethics, Politics and Struggle: http://propagandayayinlari.net/vegan.html). Can’s website is at http://canbaskent.net/.
Tell me, did you think it was easy to be an atheist in this country, with the main problem being that offending the religious sentiments of others has been branded as a “crime”?
Ramazan’da Ateizm / Ramadan atheism, http://www.canbaskent.net/politika/86.html
Today religious discrimination is recognized as a violation of human rights. While it has been forgotten that religion is itself is a violation of human rights.
Bir Devrimcilik Olarak Ateizm / Reformist atheism, http://www.canbaskent.net/politika/85.html
Can: I’ve always thought that people panic for no reason inTurkey. As an atheist, I had no real difficulty or a problem except from receiving some ridiculous threat emails. The thing inTurkey is that such law is applied only to those people who are very popular. Unless you are on TV every now and then, be on newspapers all the time, prosecution does not care if a regular random citizen violates the law or not. So, it is safer than it looks, and we should not hide behind the fear of law.
1. Witnessing an act of killing
In your text ‘The Festival of the Sacrificed’ (Kurban’in Bayrami, http://www.canbaskent.net/vegan/19.html) you question why an argument of cognitive dissonance in a human being, who does not want to become aware of his/her own cruelty, (because he/she does have to become aware of it), could not be fully applied in the case of public animal sacrifices, so that the notion: ‘if slaughterhouses had glass walls, people would go vegetarian’, seems to be wrong at the annual Feast of Sacrifices for example. It seems there is a social acceptance for an outlived and visible brutality to nonhumans when such an event represents a tradition within the context of a religious praxis.
In the secular West the visibility of the kind of speciesism that is going along with the “killing for ‘meat’” (specifically) is a modified one: killing itself tends to stay mostly or partly invisible, being delegated to be carried out by others. Yet in a mass event of a ritual killing in the name of a religion, the same callousness: Animal = Meat and Animal = Sacrifice is directly visible for anybody, if he/she wants to see it or not. And if someone is willing to partake in the act, he/she can do so and kill a nonhuman on the street. These events have a strong public visibility and count as tied to specifically religiously coloured traditions.
Some people argue that it would be more honest if everybody would have to witness the killing of nonhumans. Is the killing of nonhumans, when it is sanctioned if not encouraged by a religion still the more basic act of speciesism, as being something deeply engrained in our society, while the killing of nonhuman animals for generating “meat” carried out mostly by the butchers or in a slaughterhouse represents a modernism of speciesism, which needs to be deciphered in different terms?
Can: First of all, I never thought that the reason why most people are not vegan is epistemological. It is not because people do not know or are not aware that what they eat/kill is sentient animals. You know, real psychopaths kill their victims physically facing them. Eating those animals, which is beyond hunting for instance, is a similar act. It is more violent, more “manly”.
Clearly, the religion simply reflects this dictum. As there is no god, as the religions were not really sent by a so-called-god, the “holy” texts simply reflect the dominant paradigm.
I have never thought that prioritizing different reflections and practices of speciesism can be a useful idea. However, as they are different reflections, they must be fought against in different terms.
Here is another piece of thought. Understanding the religious practices, the fear behind them, the neediness that established them are important steps in really comprehending as to why people really engage in such horrible acts. You cannot dissolve such crimes without crashing the ideal of “heaven”, fear from unpredictable, etc. So, there is a “humane” and “social” reason as to why it is rational why people sacrifice (young girls, animals, etc.) under these assumptions. So, as long as you cannot smash these assumptions, the rest cannot follow.
2. Coming to terms with entrenched positions?
Ethical vegetarianism can look back on a long history and tradition, dating back before the big monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism). Yet, it’s these religions that take a leading role in our discourse today about the ethics of life and moral behaviour.
The ethical critique against the general society (in the secular sense) phrased by vegan Animal Rights proponents is normally met with different grades of either dismissal and rejection (speciesism) or a relative open-mindedness and willingness to reconsider the questions about the dramatically problematic constitution of society in regards to nonhumans and the natural environment.
With religious belief-systems it seem we only can expect an opening for fundamentally new conceptions to a lesser degree, since their dogmas and principles have already been fixed in their goals in the historical past of the religion – and this would also include the evaluation of live and the determination of hierarchies of beings/existence: fauna, flora and the earth overall stand below God and below the human and will have to be either protected or tyrannized. Also, religious practices and traditions (apart from the dogma) bind the believer to the belief-system, and often imply a view on animals and nature as objects that must be dominated, and that “Man” can handle with benevolence but also with ignorance, without having to fear any further social reproach.
Religions don’t list the destructivity towards our fellow beings and the environment as a top sin, but claim an entitlement of their positions as moral instances and ethical signposts in every question of life. Can this claim of the big world religions, to be able to hand out ethical answers about the entire purpose and meaning of life, be authoritative and/or helpful at all, in times in which society increasingly develops a sensitivity towards the questions of animal- and environmental ethics?
And, to what extent do we have to allow religiously driven positions to access and shape our own ethical debate? Equally: to what extent can we, as Animal Right proponents, simply dismiss them as mainly anthropocentric positions?
Can: Pragmatically, who can deny the dominance of religious vegetarianism inIndia? As you can see, sometimes religions provide some pragmatical benefit, but it is, in the case of Hinduism, entirely coincidental. However, the real problem with people avoiding killing animals for religious reasons, is simply because it is a limited point of view. Yet, most people, religious or not, have limited point of views in life. What I mean is if we politically ignore or refuse the religion as a sociological fact, we risk losing the majority in our political struggle. A revolutionary political struggle can have one of its foot on reality while keeping the other on the future.
Religion is a social phenomenon enabling ruling people. It has an economical side as well as a “moral” side. Thus, it is not difficult to see that the moral code helps the clergy to gain economical (sexual, governmental, etc.) benefits. Thus, we cannot even call it an honest morality.
Politically, there must be a balance, I have to grant. If most people are somewhat believers, and if those people are your target in the animal liberation movements, you have to formulate anti-religious perspectives delicately and directly. This is more or less an art.
After all, in the animal liberation movement, people like you are not my targets, as you are already there. What I am trying to change is the people who eat sausages every day and go to church every week. If I annoy them, it means that more animals will die due to my arrogance and wrong strategy. This is a cost I am not willing to take.
3. Is the apex of existence where “Man” is?
Animal Rights and the protection of natural spaces and habitats for all living beings make up other political, social and moral goals than the goals that the main big religions pursuit, which hold men, being made in the “image of God”, at center-stage. Contrary to this, our non-anthropocentric and anti-speciesist resistance movements phrase new questions about ‘hierarchies-of-being’. Is the questioning of the ‘hierarchies-of-being’ – namely that man can’t dominate the world acting as a “crown of the creation” – a necessary paradigm shift in our thinking, or would it be enough for humans to just pledge to take more responsibility for their co-world and fellow beings, even if that would still just take place with that sense of anthropocentric hubris?
Can: Perhaps now it is a good time to underline that an anthropocentric approach is not an evil in itself. After all veganism is also anthropocentric. People / anthro does not have to be an evil. Thus, it is neither philosophically nor practically useful for us to think or act as non-humans. We have to be humans to be vegan, in other words (forcing your pets to be vegan does not count, for obvious reasons). That said, I believe in a variety in such movements: some people can be more people oriented, some can be more animal/ecology oriented, which is fine. This is [also] relevant to a broader and perhaps more heterodox understanding of god. This is a delicate issue.
If people come up with a harmless notion of god, what would I think? In my opinion, harm is not the only evil associated with god, and removing the harm element does not immediately make it alright. But, in practice, it can help humans and non-human animals. As I said before, we have to be alert when it risks losing animals for political correctness.
I hope you can see the paradox here: animal rights activists sometimes (indirectly) sacrifice animals too, for political correctness. This is an important point to consider.
4. Borders / Barriers?
Religions speak of the indirect duties that we have towards nonhumans and the environment as the compassion and reverence that we ought to have with Gods other creation, and this would count as a human virtue that is favored by God. In the animal liberation movement we form equations that describe nonhumans and the environment in their independent and autonomous dignity, we seek to describe them in their own value, and in this way we postulate different foundations that serve their protection and their defence.
If we confront the animal advocacy- and the environmental movements (as non-anthropocentric ethical frameworks) specifically with the religious belief-systems, as two different social epistemologies that are defining ethics, does the departure from anthropocentrism (the demand of the Animal Rights and parts of the environmental movement) contain a potential of conflict at the moment in which religion (as an anthropocentric framework) takes up a larger space within a society?
In other words: Does religious dogma and authoritarian aspiration (as aspects of religious belief-systems), create restrictions when it comes to the ethical debates that consider anthropocentrism as a barrier in ethical thinking?
Can: No. First of all, the religious philosophy is a very rich and broad field. There are so many great minds who spent their lives writing amazing treatises trying morality with religion. Averroes and Abelard are the first mind coming to my mind. Religion is more complex than what most atheists think, it had many many more great minds than what most atheists think as well. Of course, not every believer is like Abelard (one wishes that), but religious morality can create a crazy and very smart philosophy, and it did.
Of course, in practice, 99.9% of believers consider religious dogma as a framework of restrictions and taboos. In such a world, rational reasoning becomes impossible.
5. A duty to protest?
Can we presuppose a fundamental moral right to create our own spaces for perspectives in freethinking, in which nonhuman animals and the environment are included into the ethical centre, even if this puts us into an antagonist position in particular to strongly religious people and religious communities?
And going a bit further: Can such a freedom in thinking about the human-animal and the human-environmental-relation, exclude us from a “societal contractualism”?
Can: No. Any presupposition in morality can lead to an authoritarianism. If you look at all fascist and dogmatic moralities, you can always find such an essentialist point: they may assume people are evil, or in contrast, they assume people are good in spirit. Clearly, this makes the philosophy easier to construct and digest, but, it simply adds yet another metaphysical assumption to the moral philosophy and risks essentialism. Human and non-human contractualism is a very dangerous field in my opinion, which takes veganism beyond its realistic boundaries and reconstructs it, well, religiously. Namely, I advocate an empiric, dynamic and interactive morality that does not need a foundational assumption or right, that includes the right to live.
6. If there is no golden mean?
If both: religion and animal liberation could be connected in specific points, would we not have to worry that Animal Rights/Liberation and environmental protection again would only have to be contingent/conditional ethical concerns, and that through making compromises or through the combination of animal rights ethics and anthropocentric religion, we would again miss out on the desired fundamental shift in thinking?
In other words: Is it a legitimate fear that in a society, that is ethically and morally strongly influenced by religion, no really new and just perspectives and politics “beyond Homo sapiens” can be evolved?
And connected to this: Does a strongly biologistically assigned field (that is: all the subjects that evolve around nonhuman animals and their natural habitat/the environment) even require a fundamental shift in its ethical, social and political variables?
Can: Well, evolution is a continuous phenomenon. I cannot imagine how the animal liberation movement will be in a hundred years. Even in the past century, we have read an insane amount of good and original ideas supplemented with exciting revolutionary practices. I don’t see any reason why we would consume all future possibilities.
7. A utopia?
Could an anthropocentric religion be stretched and modified so far in its interpretation, that for example, the human alone wouldn’t have a privilege of being an “image of God”, but that instead the entire world would represent a value that needs to be equally merited with the highest respect and reverence? Would religion even be able to maintain its own meaning, in their ability to create a form of exclusive or/and exceptional identity, if it didn’t have these hierarchical views on worldly existence?
Can: Of course. Many different interpretation of each major religion (including Islam and Buddhism) has this taste. Heteredox Islam provides quite interesting and cool examples on this for instance where every organism is seen as a reflection of god’s good.
8. Physical instincts vs. abstract mind?
With nonhuman animals we define sentience as the decisive and main criterion (in the secular and scientific context) to qualify the meaning and value of their lives in the world. These qualifiers are solely based on the biological constitution of a being and on our understanding of the biological traits.
In the great Abrahamic religions the meaning of live depends on God’s decrees and on the concept of “sin”. The notions of right and wrong, value and non-value, are measured against the parameter “God”.
So, on the secular, scientific plane we have the biological sentience of animality on the one hand, and on the other hand we have an abstract human framework of mind and belief in the religious view of “Man”. Aren’t such separations between sentience and mind perhaps the very point, that keeps the hierarchies and distinctions, that we deal with in speciesism, arbitrarily alive? Isn’t “feeling” also “mind”? The concepts of “Nature” and “God” thus create a dichotomy between a devalued bodily physicality and a God that is the upvalued mind of non-earthen-being. Is the reductionary and narrow concept of “instinct”, i.e. that the animal body should exclusively be ascribed sentience, but not vital mind and spirit, not the necessary conclusion of a religious past, which had already pinned down nonhuman animals as the despised nature-physique of a mindless and non-intelligent earthenly existence?
Can: These are very difficult questions to answer in one paragraph. There are examples for each cases ranging from Spinoza to Averroes, from Abelard to Siddharta. However, the Cartesian approach to animals has been refuted countless times, thus the philosophy adopted a broader and more scientifically oriented approach.
Thank you so much for helping us out with these questions Can!
Can: Thank you for these difficult questions :)
All links have been last accessed on: Oct 12th 2014.
Note: The German translation of this interview will later be published in TIERAUTONOMIE.
Caring for others with the goal of justice
If systemic oppression lead to you having to live a life under constant fear, if you were being tortured and eventually murdered, and your life and death was accompanied by ridicule and despise, and it was said that you’d only act upon instincts, no one would believe you, no one would in fact even understand you and your language and your ways, and they’d look upon your behaviour and dissect your brain, to explain to the rest of the world who and what you were – as if they knew. And the same that happened to you, was the same that millions and billions of those who were like you would have to endure like you, with you.
Which reaction of others, who weren’t in the place of your group, and who’d even belong to the oppressors group, and, who’d even have a say to some extent in that group, would you think was the most appropriate:
Google says it is ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.’
Merriam Webster says it is: ‘ the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it’, ‘the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.’
Google says is the
‘sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.’
Merriam webster says is
‘a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.’
Google: ‘compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.’
MW: ‘kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly.’
Google: ‘just behavior or treatment.’
MW: ‘the quality of being just, impartial, or fair’, ‘conformity to truth, fact, or reason.’